Where would Metal be without Unleashed? It feels like there would be an empty void left by a band that has inspired countless Pagan, Viking, and Death Metal bands. Thankfully, Unleashed is going stronger than ever nearly 30 years into the band's career. I recently, I got the opportunity to ask Unleashed Mastermind Johnny Hedlund a few questions about everything going on with Unleashed, including the brand new album, The Hunt For White Christ, available October 26th through Napalm Records. ENJOY!
Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview!
October 26th brings us the 13th album from Unleashed The Hunt for White Christ. How does it feel to be able to have this album coming out in just a couple weeks?
It feels amazing! We worked on it for around two years so it is safe to say that we are looking forward to hear what people think of it. We are also preparing which songs to be on the live set list and it will have an affect also which songs people like the most.
The Hunt for White Christ continues on as the 4th album to follow the story of the World of Odalheim that you have penned yourself. How does it feel to be able to show off both sides of your creative mind by showing off this saga in musical form?
Very good indeed. Since the book never got finished I figured it might make sense to do the chapters into songs so to speak. And why not, much of the story line is inspired by stuff written on many Unleashed albums anyway.
For those that may not be familiar, where does The Hunt For White Christ fall in line with the story?
The story of Odalheim is about the Midgard Warriors and their fight against the main enemy “White Christ”. The last album “Dawn of the Nine” ended with the song where the Midgard Warriors led by the son of Thor returns to Folkland shores after a successful quest to take back Svithiod and the Nordic region from White Christs rule of terror. Now, as this happens, a few scattered surviving armies of White Christ took the opportunity to attack villages on the South. These villages were naturally inhabited mostly with unarmed women, children and old people. Needless to say they were slaughtered, dismembered, raped and ultimately burned. When the Midgard Warriors arrive at the village it is all too late. This exact moment is what you see in the cover art work. The Midgard Warriors realizes that something must be done, and quickly. If White Christ can do this…what will happen next? They raise the runic letter G over the village for Blot to the dead and for victory in the coming war. And as a symbol of the ultimate act of man – to give without expecting something in return. The Midgard Warriors stand ready to give their life for family and kin. And so the hunt begins,,,The Hunt For White Christ.
Lead Us Into War was chosen as the first single off the album and is an absolutely perfect opener of the album. Is that why it was chosen as the first single?
Not really. The first song was chosen because it had to be that song to start the next events in the story line. But ok, we could off course have chosen another song for the first single release. But it had to be this one as no one to start the album.
Without question, the album cover for The Hunt for White Christ may be my favorite Unleashed album cover ever. The more I look at it, I see all the little nuances and beautiful landscapes shown off, How much time and effort was made to create this cover?
Oh I am not sure how much time the artist (Pär Olofsson) actually used to put it together. It took me a pretty long time though figuring out which sequence of the story line that should be on the album cover though. But I agree, it might be our best looking one so far.
How much of The Hunt For White Christ will be represented in upcoming live shows?
I am not sure yet. But a few songs for sure will be in there. The trick is to play as many as possible but on the other hand after 13 records, well, we have some shit to choose from I guess. Pretty hard to make everyone happy though haha.
Not just a new album to be able to promote, but with 2019 also comes with the 30th Anniversary of Unleashed. How does it feel to be able to have Unleashed, arguably, at it’s strongest point 30 years into your career?
Well thank you very much for those words on the band. I’d say it really feels great. It is no small thing to be a recording and live playing artist for this long. I think most musicians feel the same closing in on 30 years in the music industry. You really have to keep shit together in order to continue with some dignity and quality. And there is much more where all this came from.
In some fantastic news for Americans like myself, you are coming back for Maryland Deathfest in 2019. What’s it like to be able to come back and play for the American fans once again?
Amazing to say the least! And we are very much looking forward to it. We always have a blast playing in the US.
What should people expect from Unleashed as you celebrate 30 years as a band?
We have a few surprises in the pipe so to speak but we are talking about them right now so I really can’t give out any real info yet. Sorry about that. But it will be some nice things happening.
When you’re not focused on music, how do you like to spend your time?
I spend much of my free time with my eight year old son. We do all kinds of things together. Watch soccer games, play ice hockey and soccer, bicycle, skiing, listen to metal (off course), go to festivals and well, all the things I possibly can do together with him. There is nothing better in this world as I see it.
Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. As a long time fan of your work in all forms it was an honor to be able to ask you some questions about everything you have going on right now. Before we are done, is there anything else you would like to mention that I haven’t brought up yet?
OK thanks for this interview! Hope to see you next time in the US!
Unleashed- The Hunt For White Christ available October 26th through Napalm Records
Anaal Nathrakh has been storming through the gates of Extreme Metal since 1999. With every album gradually becoming bigger, grander, and more vile than the last, the band returned in 2018 to unleash their 10th album, A New Kind Of Horror through Metal Blade Records. I recently got to ask V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (vocals) a few questions about what is going on in the world of Anaal Nathrakh right now. ENJOY!
Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview! It’s a great honor to be able to help promote you guys once again and to talk about a fantastic new album.
Thank you for the support.
A New Kind of Horror comes out September 28th through Metal Blade, how does it feel to have this 3rd album through Metal Blade coming out?
It’s a good feeling. We’ve been looking forward to it coming out for what seems like a long time – we handed it over to the label quite a while back, but the release dates, schedules, blah blah blah – it’s exiting that it’s finally come out. We’re proud of it, and now it can finally spread its wings.
As described in the press release, this album is absolutely not a happy album and is easily one of the most intense albums you’ve released to date. Was that the approach going into this album, or did it come out this way naturally?
It came out naturally. That’s just the way we work – we do everything mostly by instinct. We have an idea, an atmosphere, a feeling in our heads, and making an album is a matter of translating that into music in the most direct way possible. Basically it’s not so much about writing music, it’s about letting it out, pouring out the thing in our heads. I think if we went into it saying ‘ok, this has to be intense’ or whatever then it could come out forced. But we don’t plan in that kind of way. We think ‘ok, this is going to be Anaal Nathrakh’ and then follow where that leads us.
I genuinely love the progression of the band over the years and hearing what’s happening with A New Kind of Horror takes all of my favorite elements of the band but somehow makes it even catchier, yet more chaotic and intense than ever before. With this style of songwriting, how do you know what direction you want the song to go in musically or thematically?
Thanks, I’m glad to hear you thought so. We don’t know what direction we want to go in until we do it. We have ideas, little things we want to include and sometimes there’ll be a rough sense of how we want a song to feel. And there’ll be a general atmosphere we have in mind for an album. But those are just signposts, and once we’ve started, the most important thing is then that the song should feel right as a whole. So what you start out to do can end up some way from what you in fact do. But that’s fine, and writing in an unconstrained way gives more room for the kind of innovative little things that keep music fresh, I think. Mick can write precise things perfectly easily, of course. But for Anaal Nathrakh, we follow where the music leads.
Lyrically, this is easily one of the most thought provoking albums I’ve heard in this current political climate. No matter where you stand, it’s the kind of lyrics to make you stand back and think about things. How do you feel about the political climate today? Do you see things getting better any time soon?
I’m glad you thought so – the intention is for people to think for themselves about the ideas that run through the album, not to take our thoughts and simply adopt or ignore them. I think we’re in pretty tortured times, politically speaking. One of my favourite journalists is a film maker called Adam Curtis. I haven’t seen all that much of his stuff, but what I have seen has a brilliant way of joining the dots of history. And I think we need perspectives like his to understand the royal clusterfuck that the world is threatening to turn into. There are deep seated reasons going back decades for the way things are today, but at the same time there are currents in society which often get in the way of understanding that. Certain narratives become dominant, and crowd out any other way of understanding what’s going on. That’s part of the thinking behind this album’s parallels between war a century ago and today – no other phenomenon showcases the exclusive concentration around one narrative as much as war does. Anything other than dogged, bloody minded adherence to the official line is considered treasonous. No regard for the fact that the other side are doing exactly the same, and always think they’re exactly as justified and fighting to protect and survive just as much. It’s something that really comes out in the work of the artists from WW1 – contrast the ever-more complex and abstract images produced by those on the Allied side with the work of someone like Otto Dix. There’s more common humanity and horror expressed than the narratives at the time could have ever allowed. And the same kind of thing persists today – my own country is currently embroiled in terribly ugly political divisions, and again we’ve heard calls on the fringe right for more patriotism – by which they mean ‘agree with my side and come to see the other side as enemies of the country’ – even though those not on the fringe right are still just as concerned with the national interest. Create a dominant narrative of being embattled – not arriving at an understanding with friends who seek to cooperate, but being forced to stand strong against enemies who seek to undermine. That’s just one tiny example from close to home. In general, I think the whole climate is increasingly fucked up – not just here, but in many other places, too. And no, I don’t think things will get better.
Brandan Schieppati was able to contribute some vocals to one of my favorite songs on the album, Vi Coactus. What was it like to add his vocals onto this song?
It was good fun. Brandan and Mick have been good friends for years, and it was great to be able to get Brandan on the album. He seemed to really like the stuff, and had a laugh recording, so it was good all round. And it came out well, I think. His style compliments what I was doing, and but it’s also subtly different and adds an extra flavour.
Forward! Was released as the first single - How was that decided as the first single?
We picked it ourselves, because we love the song and because it’s something a bit different. It’s an out and out head banger, and that might sound strange for us, but if you get the feeling in it and maybe catch some of the lyrics you’ll realize it’s absolutely Anaal Nathrakh at heart. So it’s a cool, possibly slightly unexpected but nonetheless powerful song, and that seemed like a good thing to introduce the album with. There’s plenty of other atmospheres on the album and it’s not like we’ve completely changed musical direction, Forward! is just one facet of a complicated whole. And it’s been quite successful as far as we can tell - the teaser video Metal Blade put on youtube has quite a lot of hits, as does the track on Spotify.
Is there any other single been determined yet from the album, or is that still to be decided?
Yeah, not long back we released a full video for Obscene as Cancer. That was a great thing to do - the film makers knocked it out of the park and delivered something which is a perfect distillation of and complement to the song. The song is particularly important in the context of the album because it’s the one based on a Wilfred Owen poem from World War 1, which is one of the motifs of the album as a whole. It’s not like a history concept album, and part of the point of reflecting on WW1 is to see parallels with the world today, but that poem in its own right is one of the most profoundly affecting pieces of writing I’ve ever come across. So to have the song and video we made under the influence of that poem as one of the ‘singles’ released in the run-up to the album coming out made perfect sense.
2019 will be 20 years since the start of Anaal Nathrakh. How does it feel to be able to say the band has lasted for two decades now?
Yeah, strangely enough I was thinking not long back about when I went on tour with Benediction, and took the first Anaal Nathrakh demo that we’d just recorded with me. I didn’t realize it was twenty years ago, and it doesn’t seem like that long even now I’m aware. The thing is, although it sounds like a big deal, and I can see why people might think it meant something, it doesn’t matter to us. We don’t really care that we’ve been doing this for a week, a year, a decade. We’re interested in what we’re doing, not where we’ve been. To a certain extent we’ll occasionally pause and think ‘not bad for a couple of kids messing about in the front room of a house that hadn’t been tidied up since the 50’s’. But we’re not particularly sentimental, and we have no sense whatsoever of resting on our laurels. We’re not comfortable self-satisfied prats, we’re hungry kids who feel driven forwards. Still.
What is next for Anaal Nathrakh?
We have a number of shows lined up, and we’ve been working on loads more shows that we can’t announce yet. So we’re going to be pretty busy. Beyond that, who knows? Aside from lining up live shows, we’ve never been ones for planning all that much, so we’ll see what happens!
What is next for you outside of Anaal Nathrakh?
Two main things. I also sing for Benediction, and we’re working towards recording the first new Benediction album for ten years in the next few months. We’re not sure of dates etc yet, but it’s finally happening and it’s exciting to be in that position after so long. The new material is sounding really strong, and we’ll have a brand new track on a compilation CD that Nuclear Blast are putting out soon. And alongside that I’m coming towards the end of a project I’ve been working on for what seems like forever. It’s a big body of work, and I’ve spent virtually the whole time for about 5 or 6 years with it in the back of my mind even when I’m not consciously working on it. But if things go according to plan, I’ll be finishing that off in the new year. So within the next twelve months or so I should be done with one of the things that has contextualized my life for a long time. That’ll be a very strange feeling.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to do this interview. As a long time fan of the band, I simply love the direction you guys go on every album and it’s amazing to hear where you are in 2018. Before we are done is there anything else you would like to mention that I hadn’t brought up yet?
Thanks a lot.
Anaal Nathrakh- A New Kind of Horror available NOW through Metal Blade Records
S.K.o.R. is a band hailing from Stockholm Sweden bringing back sense of Hard Rock from yesteryear, but not afraid to be themselves in 2018. With unique visuals, diverse lyrical content and an overall fun vibe; S.K.o.R. released their latest album Rubus Tellus September 14th through GMR Music. I had the opportunity to ask frontman Emil Gammeltoft a few questions about everything you need to know about this band. ENJOY!
Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview!
It’s my pleasure.
For anyone that may not be familiar, describe S.K.o.R.
S.K.o.R. is a band from Stockholm Sweden and play hard rock with I guess a bit of a modern touch. Energy-wise on a top level, some classic rock elements, some punk elements and my voice on top of that going mostly all the way up there.
September 14th brought on the release of the new album, Rubus Tellus. How does it feel to have this album for nearly a month now? What has been the reaction to the album so far?
Already around 20 ,000 streams and that is not bad for a newcomer to the scene I guess (?) and reviews is starting to get in and they seem to be very positive. We just got one in from Sweden Rock Magazine and that was a great one. People seems to like it and seems to appreciate we actually want to break new ground and have success with it!
What was the songwriting process like for Rubus Tellus?
It’s usually a melody that comes from any of the band members and if it is to everybody’s liking a song is created. So for the new album it was like this and it was important that all in the band had their input to the songwriting.
I personally love the fact that the album is so diverse in it’s sound. Being able to get some great hard rocking songs to cool acoustic tunes, all while feeling like it makes sense. Was that the intention of the album or did come out that way naturally?
Thank you very much! A good song is a good song never mind the musical genre but I think we have created a sound of our own and I guess my vocals makes it a red-line too to the whole concept of our sound.
Bubbleman was chosen as a single for the album, which is a great representation of what the album has to offer while not giving everything away. Is that why it was chosen as a single?
Our record label GMR Music felt that Bubbleman was the right choice for first single and a video was created also that you all can find on youtube. I think they saw the potential as it is kind of repetitive on the chorus and that the song represents the band in a way even if it’s far from the only single that have potential on this album!
With that, Bubbleman is shown off tremendously well as the album cover to Rubus Tellus. Where did the idea come from to use this as the album cover?
Bubbleman has now been developed to be S.K.o.R.s mascot so it felt right to put it on the front cover! Bubbleman will always be in the band concept from now on!
The lyrical content has a lot of great directions to it, from fun to hard hitting. How was the lyrical process for this album?
I try to be diverse in the lyric department, nevertheless serious stuff like in the song “Hell To Pay” to environmental issues of what we are doing to our earth on “Armageddon”. But also fun stuff like “Karate Girl” and wicked stuff as in the song “Seagull”. The whole spectre I would say is in content on this album.
With the band starting in 2006 and with it being almost 2019 already, how do you feel the band has progressed in that time?
S.K.o.R. started out as a folk rock band in 2006 and a completely other direction. That was the aim then and some EP:s and one full length album was done in that vein, but I got to the point where a need to rock hard felt right so we changed direction in 2015. So you can say a completely other sound and direction has been taken and now people is starting to wake up, so I guess this is what we should do and are best at!
What was it like to be able to get out there and start promoting this album live when the album came out?
We have just started actually. We are out this autumn in Scandinavia and hope to do a tour in the beginning of 2019 also in other countries! But it feels good and the songs and performance is getting the thumbs up!
With that, what should people expect from a S.K.O.R. live show?
Expect an energetic live show in high tempo and of course Bubbleman on stage!
What is next for S.K.O.R.?
Getting out to as many as possible both online and live. Choosing next single for a video and also start the songwriting process for the next album!
What do you like to do when you are not focused on music?
As most these days we who creates music can not live on music so we all have day jobs to get the economy together. Apart from that I guess we are all just ordinary people with those ordinary needs and don’t say no to feel good and live life!
Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. Rubus Tellus is a fun, 14 track adventure of hard rock that is so much fun to listen to from start to finish and it was great to be able to talk to you about it. Before we are done is there anything else you would like to mention that I hadn’t brought up yet?
Thank you very much for your fine words! The band is very much alive and creative and look forward to have contact with all rock fans who likes us via our websites, so please go in and say hi on our facebook (www.facebook/SomeKindofRubus) or our official site www.skorsaljes.se or our Instagram: s.k.o.r.sweden We look forward to keep in touch and a splendid and fruitful 2019!
That Drummer Guy: Radio DJ, Interviewer, Reviewer, overall...an OK guy.